Operation Dry Water intensifies in Okaloosa in anticipation of 4th of July Festivities

As the Fourth of July and other summer celebrations draw near, Operation Dry Water is once again doubling-down its efforts to curb dangerous boating behavior and accidents.

  • Established by the National Association of State Boating Law Administratorsin conjunction with the United States Coast Guard, Operation Dry Water is a nationwide, year-round campaign committed to raising awareness about the dangers of boating under the influence.

Since its inception in 2009, Operation Dry Water has had great success in educating the public on boating under the influence and serving as a deterrent and enforcer to those who break the law. 

However, 2022 has already proven to be more dangerous than the year before, with Independence Day and the second-half of the year still to come.

Lt. Colonel Gregg Eason and Major Fred Rondeau, along with the USCG and the Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office, held a media event for Operation Dry Water in Destin to promote safe boating and the importance of designating a sober driver during the Fourth of July weekend. (Shannon Anderson Knowles)

This year alone, the counties of Okaloosa, Walton, Escambia, and Santa Rosa have had 35 reported incidents of boating accidents and six fatalities. For comparison, 2021 had only 14 reported boating accidents and two reported fatalities.

The Fourth of July celebrations are one of the most bustling holiday weekends in the country. It is also when the number of boating accidents and BUIs reaches its peak.

  • Last year in the surrounding areas of Florida, the month of July had 79 reported boating accidents, 53 injuries, two fatalities, and over a million dollars in property damage.

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According to NASBLA, alcohol consumption is the top factor contributing to recreational boating deaths. 

“BUI is dangerous. Last year in Florida, 23% of fatal accidents were related to alcohol and drug use,” said Lt. Col. Greg Eason of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. “There’s more than one million registered vessels in the state of Florida, and there’s also more than one million unregistered vessels in the state of Florida.”

According to Sgt. Kyle CorbittMarine Unit Supervisor for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, a record number of boaters on the water is expected for this year’s holiday weekend.

Sgt. Kyle Corbitt, Marine Unit Supervisor for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office

As such, the FWC and other local law enforcement agencies will be assisting during the Operation Dry Water Heightened Awareness and Enforcement Weekend from July 2-4.

“During Operation Dry Water, OCSO, U.S. Coast Guard, and FWC will have between 10 and 12 law enforcement vessels at any given time each day patrolling the waterways of Okaloosa County,” said Sgt. Corbitt. “Of course, a big focus to us is Crab Island, Santa Rosa Sound, all the bayous, but we’re gonna have boats spread throughout all the county waterways.”

Operation Dry Water is also calling on the community to help keep our waters safe.

“We also want to encourage the general public to understand that they can report impaired boaters while they’re out there on the water through our texting app or also by calling 1-888-404-FWCC,” said Lt. Col. Eason. “And they can remain anonymous. We won’t divulge who they are if they’ll call and give us the information relating to the impaired operator, they’ll be eligible for a cash reward between 250 and $600.”

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